Rome

Experimental use of stem-cell therapy approved for Italy

Treatment controversial due to possible cell origins

Experimental use of stem-cell therapy approved for Italy

Rome, May 15 - Legislation permitting the experimental use of stem cells in medical therapies was approved Wednesday by Italian politicians on the social affairs committee. An amendment to existing law received unanimous approval for the testing of stem-cell therapy under controlled conditions approved by the Ministry of Health. As well, three million euro from the national health fund will be allocated for the testing, which is to begin July 1 and extend for 18 months. The committee has officially approved what is already the practice in at least one Italian hospital, despite court rulings against the procedure. A toddler at the Brescia hospital in northern Italy has been undergoing stem-cell treatment which the government grudgingly approved of in March. At the time, the health minister said it would be risky to the child's health to stop treatments that were underway. Treatments for local toddler Celeste Carrer involve stem-call transplants from her mother's bone marrow, and began 18 months ago to halt the spinal muscular atrophy causes the toddler's muscles to waste away. Celeste was reportedly able to move her neck, arms, and legs following an early treatment. Stem-cell treatment, which is legal in Italy in life-threatening instances, is contentious because it sometimes involves the destruction of a human embryo. Italy banned the use of embryos in stem cell research in 2004, but in 2007 Italian researchers obtained adult stem cells which they said were as effective as those obtained from embryos.

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